The United States has granted 20 months of additional funding, totalling USD 7 million to MAG in order to conduct UXO clearance and explosive ordnance risk education in Xieng Khuang.
Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) contamination within the Lao PDR continues to pose a major humanitarian threat – especially for vulnerable communities living in rural villages and towns. Mines Advisory Group’s (MAG’s) work clearing land and providing explosive ordnance risk education reduces the number of UXO accidents, provides safe land for agricultural activities and infrastructure development, and contributes to the overall socio-economic development of the Lao PDR.
The ceremony to announce the additional funding was co-hosted by the National Regulatory Authority for UXO/Mine Action sector in the Lao PDR (NRA) and MAG Lao PDR on Monday, Feb 8 at the Anoulackkhenlao Hotel in Xieng Khuang province.
U.S. Ambassador to Laos Peter M. Haymond, Vice Provincial Governor of Xieng Khuang Sivilay Sengchaleun, Director General of the NRA Chomyaeng Phengthongsawath, Acting Country Director of MAG Laos Simon Rea joined the event.
“The continued support from the United States will enable MAG to clear a lot of priority land in Xieng Khuang. This vital work saves lives and builds safer futures for people living in areas contaminated by ordnance. Clearance of land improves people’s livelihoods, allowing them to plough their land without fear, build important community infrastructure such as roads and health centres, and send their children to school without the fear of finding ordnance in the playground,” said Mr. Rea.
“The United States, as the largest donor to the UXO sector, is encouraged by the great progress made by MAG in Xieng Khuang. We remain committed to partnering with the Lao PDR to achieve their goal of ensuring that UXO is not a barrier to national development by 2030,” Ambassador Haymond stated.
The United States has contributed more than US$ 230 million to the UXO sector in the Lao PDR since 1995. With the US$7 million funding from the United States, MAG will clear close to 9 sq km (900 hectare) of priority contaminated areas in five target districts namely Khoun, Phaxay, Nonghet, Phoukoud and Paek, and deliver 180 explosive ordnance risk education sessions to impacted communities. Over 4,500 local people will directly benefit from these activities. The United States will continue working to identify other ways to enhance the capacity of the UXO sector in line with the government’s priorities and a shared vision of eliminating UXO as a barrier to national development by 2030 as indicated in Sustainable Development Goal 18.
“The funds contributed by the United States to the UXO Sector in Lao PDR are absolutely vital, especially as they are the largest donor to the sector. The Mine Advisory Group (MAG) has a long history and experience of working in the UXO sector. They have demonstrated successful work on UXO, that is efficient and effective in the Lao PDR and it is this success that has encouraged the United States, to provide an additional US$ 7 million to their operations in Xieng Khuang province, Lao PDR”.
“As we are aware the year 2020 was very tough year for all of us. We met and faced a large number of difficulties, issues and challenges in our work. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in operational task stand-down, field operation tasks were temporary paused, and offices were locked down. All this affected progress against operational targets. Because everyone worked hard and responded quickly to the situation, we were able to overcome the difficulties and resume our tasks”.
“On behalf of the UXO Sector, I would like to express sincere gratitude and thanks with the hope that the United States will continue supporting the UXO and other sectors in the Lao PDR,” stated Mr. Chomyaeng.
Source: Lao News Agency